The Victoria Police Department is warning the public after an increase in “virtual kidnapping” reports.
On Sunday, April 18, officers were called to the 100-block of Harbour Road after a report of a suspicious circumstance involving a woman. Officers spoke with the woman and learned she had been the victim of a virtual kidnapping scam.
Six days earlier, according to police, the woman was contacted by an individual speaking Mandarin who claimed to be a member of the Chinese police. She was convinced she needed to send money and other personal information to the scammer in order to protect her family in China. The person then used that information to convince the woman’s family in China that she was being held for ransom. The scam was interrupted before any money was transferred.
This incident serves as a reminder of the scam, which often targets the Chinese community says VicPD.
According to a statement from the department, perpetrators of these crimes often target people from mainland China who are in their early 20s and are in Canada on a student visa. The victim receives a phone call in the form of a recorded message from a number that often appears to be from the Chinese Consulate or another Chinese authority. If the target responds to the message, they are informed there is either a warrant for their arrest in China or the police need their help with an investigation. As part of the extortion, the scammer often convinces the victim to make fake videos or send photographs indicating they’ve been kidnapped or are a victim of a crime. These materials are sent to the victim’s family, who in turn, are extorted for money.
Locally, major crime unit detectives have investigated several virtual kidnapping files. In at least one file, significant amounts of money have been extorted from worried families. VicPD notes in addition to the cost of police resources utilized in these files, they also carry an emotional cost to the victims and their families.
The local department reiterated Chinese police cannot make arrests in Canada, all policing related to contact from the Chinese government will be done through local police, and the Canadian or Chinese authorities will not ask you to destroy a phone or takes photos or videos of yourself pretending to be a victim of a crime.
VicPD is urging anyone who has been contacted by someone claiming to be from a Chinese authority to call its non-emergency line at 250-995-7654.